CMOs Reflect, Predict, Offer Advice as New Year Begins

While practitioners of marketing are inevitably experts at ground-level insights, Chief Marketing Officers hover higher above. They are by necessity experts of the holistic, the 30,000-foot view of brand-building. We asked a few of our favorite CMOs for their thoughts on the year just ended and the one that lies ahead. Here’s what they had to say.

While practitioners of marketing are inevitably experts at ground-level insights, Chief Marketing Officers hover higher above. They are by necessity experts of the holistic, the 30,000-foot view of brand-building. We asked a few of our favorite CMOs for their thoughts on the year just ended and the one that lies ahead. Here’s what they had to say.

What do you consider to be your brand’s top achievement from 2019 and what should we look out for from your brand in 2020?

Raja Rajamannar, CMO, MasterCard: “In 2019, we made the brand more tangible for our consumers in ways we haven’t before. We’ve evolved our multisensory brand to reach various consumer touchpoints. Earlier this year we dropped the name from our logo making it an iconic brand mark to adapt more for the digital age. We then unveiled a full sonic architecture, and most recently we’ve focused on the sense of taste – by opening flagship restaurants in NYC, opening Bistro by Mastercard in Rome’s international airport and launched two unique macaron flavors that represent the brand’s identity through taste. In 2020, we’ll continue these efforts.”


Raja Rajamannar

Doug Zarkin, CMO, Pearle Vision: “Our top achievement from 2019 was strengthening the trust internally with our franchisees and externally driving a record year (on top of a record year in ‘18) of patient growth. In 2020, look for Pearle Vision to remain squarely focused on driving trust in the communities in which we operate one of our EyeCare Centers. And you can look forward to the next installment of our Small Moments marketing campaign.”

Alicia Tillman, CMO, SAP: “A few, interrelated things immediately come to mind. I’m immensely proud that SAP has climbed year-over-year as one of the world’s most valuable brands, growing our brand value by $18.5 billion in the past two years and now ranked 16 on the 2019 BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands report. But equally important is how we got there–our commitment to helping brands create authentic, emotional connections with their customers. When we launched Experience Management (XM) earlier this year, it was with the goal of giving businesses the tools to connect the hard numbers of what makes their brand tick with the emotional responses customers were actually having as they engaged with them. That comprehensive view is fundamentally changing the benchmark of experience, and will set the stage for how we continue to partner with customers in 2020.”

What one piece of advice would you give brand marketers heading into the New Year?

Seth Solomons, CMO, Equinox Fitness: “Organize your marketing to be in service of the people that buy your products or services.  For Equinox, we are very focused on understanding our members at a deeper level and doing everything we can to give them more of what they want, when and where they want it.”


Seth Solomons

Raja Rajamannar, CMO, MasterCard: “The biggest opportunity for marketers in 2020 is artificial intelligence as it continues to enhance, evolve and increase the impact of marketing. We have reached a tipping point in the digital transformation of marketing, where hype has moved to reality and we are going to see the practical use cases for new technologies advance exponentially. These advancements allow marketers to personalize campaigns and act with more speed and efficiency than ever before. A piece of advice to marketers is to adapt quickly or you risk being left behind. Marketers need to stay constantly curious, take thoughtful risks and scale fast, as the pace of technology and innovation will not slow down anytime soon.”

Doug Zarkin, CMO, Pearle Vision: “Play offense–not defense. Determine what course is best for your brand and go after it.”


Doug Zarkin

Alicia Tillman, CMO, SAP: “More and more, major brands are rethinking their approach to the role of CMOs and the wider marketing function. Some are even opting out of having a CMO entirely. But marketers are the stewards of the buying journey and the champions of the customer – there’s no greater advocate for achieving customer-centricity. As consumers call for brands to build exceptional experiences, marketers must answer. With 2020 on the horizon, it’s absolutely vital for brand marketers to be the bridge between the needs of the customer and those of the business. By taking a creative, data-driven approach, they can help brand communities navigate our ever-changing economic landscape successfully.”

What topic or trend do you think will define your industry in 2020?

Alicia Tillman, CMO, SAP: “The future of business has feelings. Best-in-class brands are deeply empathetic and are able to replicate level of inter-personal relationships we have in our lives as consumers. If 2019 laid the foundation and gave businesses the tools to do so, 2020 will be the year that brands use this as a launch pad to soar even higher.”


Alicia Tillman (r) at a BI Summit in New York

Doug Zarkin, CMO, Pearle Vision: “I believe consumers will begin to see through the aggressive price promos that have wreaked havoc in our category and focus their decision making on what matters most: care and quality.”

Seth Solomons, CMO, Equinox Fitness: “Equinox is a luxury lifestyle brand and remains in an industry of one. That said, we always have an opportunity to deliver a heightened experience across everything we do for our members with the focus of deepening their connection and love for our brand.”

Raja Rajamannar, CMO, MasterCard: “Experiential is a trend that’s been around for several years but will evolve in 2020 regardless of what industry you’re in. This coming year we will see brands advance their experiential strategies to bring value back to the business. Experiences should be driven by focusing on the consumers’ wants and needs and how your brand can meet a challenge or bring in a new opportunity for them. Start with people if you want to resonate. Consumer loyalty is no longer earned by the quality of product or services; consumers want a brand to understand their likes, dislikes and the things they are most passionate about.”

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